James Lawton: It's a game, not a game show

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England didn't pick up too many marks for style in Murrayfield, either on the field or in the coach Clive Woodward's withering reaction to Scottish pre-game rituals. But some important points were well made.

Woodward's players said that the time when they could be so easily rattled by ancient Scottish passions, even on an off-day, had been consigned to history.

The coach's argument went beyond the old tribal animosities. It was the eminently sound one that there should be a clear divide between a desire to entertain the fans while they await the action and proper respect for the participants.

"Get the players on, play the national anthems and start the game - this was a rugby match not a pop concert," snarled Woodward. Was this a sour Woodward? No, it was a rugby man registering his protest against ever-encroaching showbiz. Already the Six Nations tournament has been mapped out as a glorified television schedule.

Murrayfield's show didn't so much sail over the top as sprawl out of its time. It was a nice image to have three pipers on the roof of the floodlit stand, but littering the field with silver ticker tape was tacky. Nothing approaching the bared bosom of Janet Jackson at the recent Super Bowl, but Woodward's warning should be heeded. The game should remain the thing. In America it used to be so. Now they add an hour with TV time-outs. Rugby should beware the thin edge of the television "wodge".

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